Smelly question

Nurses General Nursing


Specializes in SN - Graduating December, 2012.

I am very much looking forward to starting the nursing program this spring (I got my acceptance letter not too long ago). :) I have a genuine love for people and their well-being and am so thankful to FINALLY have the opporunity to pursue this goal. I am not squeemish to the sight of blood, internal organs, or even excrement.

I do, however, fear I am going to have an issue with smells. LOL I know it sounds contradictory... the SIGHT doesn't bother me at all... but the SMELLS of nursing, I am guessing, cannot be easy to deal with all the time. Can any of you experienced nurses offer any advice or relate to this? I am confident I will adapt, but am just curious of other people's experiences.

Thanks for your comments in advance!

Some things you'll get used to. But sometimes you just have to hold your breath and work as fast as you can!

Specializes in chemical dependency detox/psych.

As someone with a highly-developed sense of smell, nursing can be rough, at times. My husband calls me bionic nose. :D I've always found that breathing through my mouth has helped, although don't do this completely--our sense of smell is important in telling how patient is doing. For example, you need to know if your patient's urine smells "off," but I can do that from about 5 feet away. I avoid a full-on close-up smell of many things, as I can do it from a distance without overwhelming myself (and losing my cookies.) For truly repulsive smells, Vick's vaporub works well. Smear a small amount under your nose, and it can block out many offensive odors.

Specializes in LTC, Med-SURG,STICU.

You get use to a lot of the smells. Very few smells gets to me anymore, but if something is getting to me I try to distact myself. Try talking to the patient even if they can not talk back. If I am thinking about what I am talking about I do not think about the smell.

Specializes in SN - Graduating December, 2012.

Thanks, SlightlyMental_RN. I guess learning to breathe through your mouth has got to be a learned skill. I have tried it before, but was very unsuccessful at it because I still smell everything quite well. I sure hope I get used to it quickly!

Specializes in Hospice, LTC, Rehab, Home Health.

Menthol cough drops also work well and are easy to use as the need arises.

if something is REALLY bad I'll get a mask and smear a little toothpaste on the inside of it, it adds a little minty fresh to the mask and blocks out a lot... but sometimes it's all about holding your breath and trying to finish what you're doing as fast as you can and getting the hell out of that room hahah

First I admit I have a low to average sense of smell. I read once that if you have to be around an unpleasant odor your nose, sense of the smell, will become tolerant to that odor over time. As contrary as it sounds, take several deep sniffs of the offending odor, then you "get used to it." I have found it to work!!!!

Several years ago we had a patient come to our clinic. He had been traveling and somehow??? (the story was a little strange,) did not have his osteotomy supplies. He had DUCK TAPED (!!!!) his ostomy bag to his skin, but that wasn't holding. He was a stinky mess. We called a very kind osteotomy nurse, and she and I cleaned him up.

My co-workers could not stop talking about and gagging over the awful smell. I was very proud of myself for helping this patient, and after the first few sniffs, the odor did not bother me at all!!!!

Specializes in MSN, FNP-BC.

It's not that the smells start to smell any better, you just learn how to put a professional face on.

Specializes in ED.

I find it incredibly helpful to wear a soft scented lotion on my upper arms. It has saved me from wretching many times when cleaning someone. I am able to "sniff my arms" when I feel that I am about to gag. And it is definitely not as noticeable as if I tried to sniff my deodorant. :) Hope this helps!

Specializes in Med/Surg, Ortho, ASC.

I also have a bionic nose, but I have always been squeamish about breathing through my mouth in these situations - whatever airborne particulate is circulating the smell, I don't want in my mouth. I don't even know if that makes sense, scientifically; it's just my (possibly) irrational feeling.

I can remember collapsing in bed after my first few clinical days in LTC.....I would swear that some of those odor particles had taken up residence in my nostrils and I could still smell the worst of the day's odors.

At any rate, OP, the bottom line is that while you may never get used to it, you will learn to function. The mentholated cough drop is a really good idea - you can carry one of those around with you all the time.

Specializes in ortho, hospice volunteer, psych,.

i have a bionic nose too. my husband has virtually no sense of smell, resulting from a childhood accident and it's so frustrating sometimes, because i'll smell some totally gross obnoxious disgusting thing and his reaction will invariably be, "what smell?" i could just dopeslap him!:D or my other favorite? "you're imagining things again!":uhoh3:

a couple of additional ideas for you to try are: putting 2-3 drops of oil of wintergreen or oil of peppermint, or oil of cinnamon or cloves on a cotton ball and tuck it into your pocket or bra and the odor will waft up. the other idea is to tuck an unwrapped tea bag into your mask, pocket or bra. some that have worked well for me are: cinnamon, earl grey, constant comment, and peppermint.

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